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ARTICLE - SQUIDDING and suggestions on how to use them


DerekD
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Hi All,

(Work in progress – putting this in as a placeholder. Also sourcing more photos to insert)

Most of my successes with kingfish and jewfish has been through the use of squid as bait. I prefer squid I have caught myself as I know how fresh it is and how it has been handled. My introduction to squid fishing with jigs was pretty basic. I have put in a lot of hours in since then to refine my technique with a few aha moments along the way. I thought I’d compile some of the advice columns I’ve put together into one post.

To give credit to those before me, @slinkymalinky did an extremely good article on squidding several years ago which got lost in the site renovation and is still worth reading:

 

To Stefano – thank you for the company on squidding sessions and letting me use some of those wonderful photos.

Now for those people who prefer an abridged version in video format there is an excellent one by Yamashita which will cover a lot of information on squid jigging very quickly:

 

While putting this post together I came across an nice article on squidding written several years ago (I don’t agree with the sink rate advice as I think the author has confused it with size but the rest looks well researched) – specifically have a look at the section on retrieve styles. http://www.fishingworld.com.au/news/egi-master

Before I get into the details. Squid move around and up and down through the water column. Asking for a squid spot doesn’t really help in that 15 minutes can make all the difference between them being there and the dreaded donut. There are areas in Sydney harbour where I catch them more consistently but it can be 1st cast or cast 100 or somewhere in between. If I really want to catch squid I have to try several of my spots. They have excellent eyesight. They can swim very quickly when they want so if they want your lure they can catch it but the trick is to entice them in. They can be aggressive or timid. Southern calamari seem to travel in twos and threes and of a similar size. Arrow squid I’ve hooked up to nine from what I think was a single school. I can also catch cuttlefish when I need to but I have to use a few of my spots (some of which require water access).

SQUID

The Southern Calamari (or green eyes). The wings run the full length of the body.

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Commonly referred to as arrow squid locally the wings only run the top half or third of the hood.

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Cuttlefish. Have a cuttlebone. Can be a little more rounded and have shorter tentacles compared to their body than the squid. While most of the ones I catch in Sydney harbour are small (up to 15cm) I’ve seen some ones bigger than a football out at the heads.

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SQUID JIGS

Many years ago my local tackle shop was kind enough to arrange a presentation by one of the better known Japanese squid jig manufacturers. They showed us a cloth covered squid jig with a half coin as the weight and stated that it was over 300 years old. The presenter explained the Japanese are so passionate about their squid that they seeded the bays where squid would come with branches from the willow trees as a facsimile for sea grass on which the squid could lay their eggs. The research they have put into the lure design and colours is pretty impressive and that presentation is one of the reason for my bias towards Japanese jigs (as well as lightening my wallet on the night).

If it came down to it I believe you could give me any legitimate squid jig and I’m confident enough in my technique that I can catch squid with it. I do, however, have my preferences. From the amount of squid that have gone for my white soft plastics I came to the conclusion a bit of white in the jigs wouldn’t hurt. I also like to have a vibrant colour such as pink or orange to make it really stand out. The clip point should be a solid ring rather than swivel – I’ve lost more squid jigs to the swivel failing over time than snags. I like the cloth covered ones for the tactile feel the squid get with a glow in the dark sub coating to get their attention at night. I want two rows of fine stainless tines as they penetrate better and will straighten on a snag meaning I have a better chance of getting it back.

You will see sizes such as 1.6, 1.8, 2.2, 2.5, 3.0, etc. I’ve never found out why but my best guess is that relates to length in inches. Please don’t make the mistake of confusing size with density (or sink rate). I use a series of 2.2 sized jigs which has three different sink rates (slow, medium and fast) for different locations. Typically I find the sink rates for most jigs is around 3 seconds per meter.

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I’m not a fan of the razorbacks as to me it is extra clutter on the lure and I’m not sure how good the hook up rate is on the spines on top of the jig. To be honest I’ve never given them enough of a chance to come to an fair conclusion so I’d be interested in what the opinions others have of them.

Companies such as Yamashita have put a lot of research into which colours work best under specific conditions (e.g. water clarity and light). For some further reading Google squid jig colour chart. Many people have found that changing the colour of a jig has resulted in the squid turning on. I will change out between a few of my more commonly used jigs but won’t bother following the chart.

Some people will use scent on their jigs. It is another way of getting the squid interested. It is also another thing to carry and a hassle if it leaks through your gear and it can stain your jigs. I briefly tried some but haven’t put any serious testing against an unscented jig to see if it makes a difference. I’m not saying that they don’t work. There are companies that spend hundreds or thousands of hours developing and testing these products or alternatively just put it out there with the philosophy “build it and they will come”.

Most squid jigs will have some sort of glow in the dark capability. Sometimes it is only a small band of luminescent tape and others are glow in the dark from front to back. You can hit them with a torch or street light in the area you are fishing or alternatively consider getting a UV torch as it charges them up several times faster than a normal white light torch. Spot the difference to the photo above.

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THE GEAR

I use 2 set ups for my squidding. The first and my go to is my bream rod: 2-4kg, 3-12gram, 7 foot 6, graphite, 2500 reel, 4lb braid, 8lb leader. The second is if I am fishing a really weedy area and am expecting to get snagged up: 5-8kg, 15-45gram, 7 foot 6, graphite, 4000 reel, 15lb braid, 30lb leader. I use a swivel and duolock clip so I can quickly and easily change out jigs. Over the years I’ve heard people argue that braid with its minimal stretch will result in more pulled strikes than mono. I don’t lose many squid and if I do they were badly hooked in the first place (just a small tip of the tentacle comes back). Playing them with a soft hand makes up for the lack of stretch in the braid and I’d prefer to have the extra casting distance and sensitivity of braid. On the heavier (and stiffer) rod, backing the drag off can help with not losing them.

There are specific Egi (Japanese: “squid lure”) rods. These often have a fast action (fast taper so there is a lot of bend in the tip but the body and base of the rod is a bit stiffer) and maybe a softer tip. If squid fishing is all you are interested in then feel free to get one of these rods but a 7 foot light rod will usually suffice.

THE RIGS

I enjoy the pursuit of squid so am happy to put the time in rather than treating it as a rushed means to an end. I fish one jig at a time attached to a swivel and duolock clip. If I am having trouble finding the bottom I can put a ball sinker in front of the jig.

If it is purely for catching bait then you can improve your chances by setting two or three jigs up in a paternoster arrangement. This can work well in current but if you snag up it can be rather expensive.

My rig for catching cuttlefish is a swivel then immediately after a small ball sinker fixed to say 10lb line (I friction lock the sinker in place by passing the line through the eye say 4 times), 60cm of line then a slow sinking small 1.6 or 1.8 brightly coloured jig. The ball sinker helps the jig get to the bottom quickly. Once there a small lift gets sinker and jig off the bottom, then lower the rod so the sinker drops to the bottom but the jig sinks very slowly giving cuttlefish and squid time to spot it. Let it sit for say 10 seconds and lift the line again. If you feel a bit of resistance then it can be a cuttlefish in the area so let it sit on the bottom a bit longer. They have smaller tentacles than squid so the smaller jig is required to hook them up more consistently. If you think you are getting hits but not hooking up look for a drop of white goo on the tines. This is a good indicator that it was a cephalopod (usually a cuttlefish) playing with the lure. If you hook up an feel resistance keep tension in the line all the way as you retrieve to prevent them dropping off the tines.

You can put a jig (or squid spike complete with dead pilchard or similar) underneath a float as a more relaxed way of fishing. This is also a great way of slowly working across weed beds when you really don’t want to snag up.

THE LOCATION

Fish areas with weed and sand patches and maybe a little bit of structure. It will be the sort of area bait fish will congregate. If you are at a jetty look for the tell tale black ink marks indicating people have caught them there before. An example of this are jetties or the local baths as the netted structure can hold bait fish

You can use tools such as Google earth look for the weed and sand patches as a starting point but there is no real substitute for getting out there and trying under different conditions.

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TIDES, TIMES, SEASON AND WEATHER

My personal experience is that tides in general have little to do with catching squid. Now before I get hammered for this, the whole harbour does not start firing up the minute you get X minutes before or after low or high tide. If that was the case I’d look at the tide chart and head down to any spot by the harbor and catch squid. In specific locations tides may play a part. There might be back eddies which bunch up baitfish encouraging squid to hang around these locations more frequently. The tides do have an impact on where I fish in that the water becomes so shallow I am frequently at risk of snagging up on the exposed weed beds. The squid is both an extremely competent predator but also prey for other species so they have to be a little cautious when hunting – I find I have a little more success at dusk and dawn when they seem to be feeding more actively. Advice I’ve heard before is that from 10am till 2pm they tend to go into deeper water but having said that I’ve caught them all hours of the day.

Over the years I've found that I seem to catch more squid in the warmer summer months but consistently bigger squid in the winter months.

I've been told that squid don't like the change in salinity after heavy rains and that puts them off. I have a tendency to ignore that advice these days for a number of reasons. Sydney harbour is around 10 to 35 metres deep depending on where you are. The deepest part I am aware of is near pier one at 43m give or take. The average depth is about 13m depending on your source of information. Even allowing for lots of run-off it would take a fair bit of water to dramatically change the salinity of that 13m of water column. More importantly, it is not like they can hop out of the harbour and they still need to eat so a squid jig in the water has a chance of catching a squid. The reduced visibility is a pain but I've still caught squid in the cloudy water we get after really heavy rains.

THE TECHNIQUE

If you can fish soft plastics then you can fish squid jigs. All the basic concepts are similar.

Before I get into this I had an aha moment in a quiet bay in Sydney which dramatically changed the way I fish for squid. I had a size 3 jig on and a rather large squid followed it into the shallows. It grabbed the jig but the slightest movement of the jig saw it being released with the squid backing away slightly. This happened about 5 times. The squid wanted the jig. It was of a size that the jig was no obvious threat but it was still timid. I thought about it then I waited till the squid grabbed the jig again and with a quick sharp snap of the rod tip I set the jig tines, after which the squid was mine. I have seen this aggressive and then timid behaviour multiple times since then and I slow the movement of the jig sufficiently to encourage the squid to grab the jig at which point I set the tines. This method has worked its way into my retrieves.

Another aha moment has been that when distracted I have let the jig sit on the bottom a bit longer than usual. It is a pleasant surprise how often the next flick has resulted in some weight on the line which turns out to be a squid. The pause gives them time to grab the jig.

You have got your gear, some squid jigs and a viable location and head out squidding for the first time. First thing to check is the sink rate.  Let out about 2m of line from the tip of the rod and hold the jig just under the surface of the water. Lower the rod tip quickly so the jig can free fall. Count down the time it takes to get 1m – usually 3 seconds but this can vary. I use slow sinking jigs over shallow weed beds and faster sinking jigs if I want to get down to the bottom quickly.

The guideline is fish as close to the bottom as you can WITHOUT snagging up. If it is weedy 3m underneath the surface then you can count down say 6 seconds and stay above the weed. If you are fishing beyond the weeds in slightly deeper water and a sandy bottom you can let it reach the bottom. Thus if I am fishing water I think is about 10m deep I count to 30 or a little more with my 3 second per meter jigs. If you lift the jig back off the bottom say 1m then allow at least 4 seconds for it to get back down to the sandy bottom. The jigs are designed to land nose down with the tail swinging slightly in the current. Very tempting for a squid to ambush and grab.

When I started, the easiest way to fish a jig was to estimate the depth of the water, cast out, count down the lure (or watch for the sag in the line just like when fishing plastics) till it hit the bottom and then use a medium paced lift with about 1 to 2m of rod movement to get it off the bottom, reel in the slack as you lower the rod and then count it down to the bottom again. Repeat until the squid jig is at your feet. If there are weeds or snags in front of you lift the rod tip high and then retrieve the last part at a faster rate to clear the snags. Watch behind your jig as you bring it up as they can be following. If they do then pause the jig to allow them to grab it. Turn it side on to the squid to expose the body and give the squid an easy target. I find giving it the smallest of intermittent twitches lets them know your jig is still active but you need the pauses to give a hesitant squid the chance to strike. When they have the jig and short sharp flick of the jig will set the tines. Fan your casts out and work an area. Change jigs and work the area again. If nothing happens then the squid are not there or not interested. Move to the next area and repeat the process.

Squid have good eyes and can swim quickly so as I got better at it I started to change the retrieve to incorporate more movement to get their attention. That is, a double flick and pause to let it get down to the bottom. These days I use a subsurface walk the dog action which involves a short triple flick which imparts a darting motion (both up and down and sideways) to the jig and then pause to let it slowly settle and allow them to grab it. The next set of flicks has the additional benefit of setting the tines if they have grabbed the jig without me being aware of it. The Japanese use a retrieve which incorporates a very vigorous sweeping movement of the rod. The theory behind it is that it gets the squid's attention and revs them up - you can find demonstrations on the internet or the Yamashita video link above.

When winding in keep steady pressure on them but allow a bit of flex in the rod and your hand movements. Do not jerk the rod as you can pull the jig. They tire easily so you will get them in sooner or later. I lose very few squid on braid and that is only if they are barely hooked. When they are in close I make an assessment of how to land them. When touched they will often startle and ink. If you get inked it is not funny. If your mate gets inked it is the funniest thing ever. They need water in their jet to be able to expel ink so if you can pick them up without scaring them and lay them head down the water will trickle out. If they are hooked well enough so I can dead lift them out of the water I lower them down to about 10cm above the ground and time their spin so the jet is pointing away from me as I lay them down. Using a landing net is one of the surest ways of getting them if you come from behind the hood as their immediate response is to use the jet to make their escape. Problem is you will likely have to clean ink off the net.

If (and more likely when) you catch a squid then remember exactly where you cast. Southern Calamari often travel in twos or threes. Arrow squid in groups sometimes more than 10 (8 from 8 casts is my record). Keep an eye behind the squid as you wind in as it may be followed by other squid. If you are by yourself and you can get that squid jig back out there quickly you have a very good chance of catching multiple squid. If you have a mate with you estimate roughly where the squid you are hooked on to is and get your mate to case alongside and a little past your squid jig and then work it back a little quicker than you are bringing in the squid. Fairly often your mate will hook up too and if you keep one of the squid in the water and get the jig out again you may pick up a few more.

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Fishing from the kayak

The advantage of fishing for squid from the kayak is that I can cover ground and get in some areas which will not always be comfortable for boats. I keep a bucket on my kayak in which to drop the squid and avoid getting ink over me and the kayak. The aim is to cover ground till you find them. One of my more effective methods is to line up about 5 to 8m off the shoreline and then cast ahead and parallel to the shore and specifically the outer edge of the drop off. I want to fish just outside the weed beds. This allows any squid in the weed beds and in deeper water watch the squid jig flick by. Alternatively I can also cast towards shore and then count it down the drop off but I find that limits the ground I can cover. There are a number of weed beds in Sydney which go on for a fair distance at a pretty constant depth (say 1 to 3m below the kayak). When fishing these I use a slow sinking and really fan my casts out. If you have a spare rod holder you can put out a jig on a float set at about 1m below surface which will follow the kayak as you amble along. I've caught enough squid on the sleeper jig to not be surprised by it.

MEASURING THEM

As the tentacles can stretch or shrink rather than tip to tip the most consistent way of measuring them is to lay them of the belly and just measure the hood. This southern calamari hood was 38cm and you can see the green eyes in the top photo.

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SOME SUGGESTIONS AS HOW TO PREPARE AND STORE THEM

To keep them I have a few Ziplock bags with me and put them straight into the bag and then into the freezer. These frozen squid have caught me quite a few kings and jewfish (biggest being 104cm). Be warned. There is something in the ink which over time works its way through the edges of the ziplock bags and can stain whatever it is the bag was lying on.

I’m going to put together some photos on the method I use to strip them for both food and bait but here is a description.

Once you have some squid if you plan to use them as bait you can put them down as whole baits but I prefer to strip them. Run your hand behind the upper side of the head and into the hood and break the join with your finger. Pull the head out. Either a whole bait or cut in half lengthwise for two baits. The two wings can be separated from the body by working the join with your fingernails. Minimum of two baits there but I slice them in strips to get more. Find the feather inside the top of the hood and pinch out with fingernails and throw away. I run a knife along where it was and open the whole hood out so I can cut long strips. If you want to keep squid for eating they are prepared more or less the same way but you don't open up the hood and you clean the inside and outside of the hood. If you want to keep them for fishing buy a packet of sandwich sized ziplock bags and drop them in there and do not wash them in freshwater. Freeze them in the bag for your next fishing outing. I find they keep quite well and I can also use them whole when chasing jewfish.

A few methods on how to fish them for kings and jewfish (still to come).

I like using Cuttlefish as bait for kings as they come in a convenient snack size. My usual way of hooking these is to use a 6/0 circle hook at the tip of the hood and parallel with the cuttlebone as per this photo below. This one probably needed a little bit more of the hook exposed.

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ODDS AND ENDS (still to come)

Squid Jig design

@savit had been doing some reading on squid jig design and sent me a few links to share in this article

http://www.squidfish.net/squidjigdesign.shtml

http://www.squidfish.net/forums/index.php?/forum/27-homemade-squid-jigs-and-tackle/

http://www.fishingpatents.com/japan-squid-jig-patents-1.shtml

http://www.fishingpatents.com/japan-squid-jig-patents-2.shtml

Old squid

I find when squid has been in the sun for a little too long it turns a fabulous shade of pink which would do a first time pale skinned visitor from the UK proud after spending a little too long sunbathing on one of our magnificent beaches. It is also a similar colour to some of the cheaper store bought squid and when I see it in this colour in the shops I often shy away from it.

Rather than throwing it out, what I have found is that it makes a pretty good bait for use in crab traps and witches hat hoop nets for blue swimmer crabs (especially when it starts to get a bit fragrant). It is also a better option than contributing to our garbage dumps.

Thank you and something to think about

If you have gotten this far then thank you for taking the time to read this as there is a lot of information above to process. At the time of writing this there is about 15 years of chasing squid and assisting others behind this post.

One of my favourite high school teachers would utter two words of advice when demonstrating complicated mathematical proofs. These were, “have faith”, and it is advice which has served me well in the years since. I don’t mean it from a biblical sense but in a practical “I can’t see the end result from where I am but I trust I will get there”, sense. Anyone who has put together Ikea flatpack furniture will have experienced this. The same comes with squidding. There are times I feel I’ve lost my Mojo but with the right gear, technique and persistence you will feel that pulsing weight on the end of your line. Fishing for squid side by side with other people it is rare for them to pull squid after squid out while I am getting nothing. The techniques work and I have faith that they will continue to do so.

To summarise (assuming you have suitable gear and jigs):
•    Pick areas which have a mixture of sand and weed
•    Fish as close to the bottom as you can without snagging up (the mental countdown will assist with this)
•    Short sharp movements to get their attention with pauses to allow them to grab the jig
•    Fan your casts out
•    Consider a jig change (vary colour, size and maybe sink rate) or two
•    Move along to the next area or put the squid jigging aside for 30 or so minutes and do something else like fishing soft plastics before trying again
•    Use a soft hand when bringing them in to avoid pulling jigs and generally there is no need to rush as they tire quickly
•    Remember where you hooked up as they of travel in schools and if you can get the jig out there quickly you can often pick up a few more
•    Care when landing them as you can lose them at your feet and they may still be loaded with ink

Edited by DerekD
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Thanks for the great tutorial. Squidding something i really struggle with ive practically put it in the too hard basket. After reading and watching im ready to go again.

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Really useful article Derek. Thank you for your work!

Question. What's your observation of  weather impact (e.g wind, rain, pressure change) on squid activity/fishing?

 

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A great, in depth article Derek. I reckon that if readers adopted the methods which you promote they would definitely improve their catch rate. Of course, we always have to remember that some days the squid are either not there or not wanting to play. Those days will happen but if you apply the content of this post to your outings YOU WILL SUCCEED. I can say that for certain because I (who rarely fish salt water) have done just that, under Derek's guidance and succeeded. Keep up the good work Derek, you're helping a lot of people improve their fishing. bn

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1 minute ago, zmk1962 said:

Awesome write up Derek.  Thanks for putting this together...it's my go to reference now for egi...

Cheers Zoran

Thank you for the compliment Zoran. It is still only about 80% complete. I have to get some more photos to show different ways of stripping them and rigging them as bait so I can see a squid session coming up.

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52 minutes ago, Reel’em said:

Absolutely outstanding, great post. Helped me to understand a lot , hope my squidding will improve now.

Hi Reel'em,

Was hoping to use you as a hand model for the next few photos of how to prepare squid and suggestions on how to rig them. Unfortunately it will have wait till you are out and about and we can catch some.

Regards.

Derek

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  • mrsswordfisherman changed the title to ARTICLE - SQUIDDING and suggestions on how to use them
  • 1 month later...
  • 4 months later...

Thanks for taking the time to write this. I consider myself a squid master and still gained a lot of great info from the article. 

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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, ICDumplingman said:

I loved this article mate!!! I’d love to see more of this! Really helpful so keep it up!!!👍👍👍😁

Thank you. I still have another chapter or two to add to this one relating on how I strip them and several ways to use them shore based. Need a squid to do so and someone to assist with the photos. I can do one but not both easily at the same time. 😃

Edited by DerekD
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